CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Former Palmetto Bank CEO Russel Laffitte, an alleged accomplice of disbarred attorney and accused murderer Alex Murdaugh, appeared in Federal Court Wednesday for the second day of his trial. Laffitte was charged with five federal indictments tied to various financial crimes he allegedly carried out with Murdaugh over a period of several years.
The federal trial began in Downtown Charleston on Tuesday afternoon after US District Judge Richard Gergel swore in the jury and alternates. Both federal prosecutors and Laffitte’s defense made their opening remarks and the government called its first witness to the stand.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the initial witness, Norris Laffitte was called back to the stand for around two and a half hours. Norris Laffitte is a cousin of Russell Laffitte and serves on Palmetto State Bank’s Board.
He said he first became suspicious when reviewing checks, loans, and other financial transactions between Russell Laffitte and Murdaugh. He later learned of missing and misappropriated money from a number of bank clients, for whom Russell Laffitte served as either a conservator or personal representative.
Norris Laffitte became emotional later in testimony when describing the board’s vote and decision to fire his cousin, Russell Laffitte as the then-CEO of Palmetto State Bank.
Federal Prosecutors then called Jeanne Seckinger, Chief Financial Officer at Murdaugh’s former law firm Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick Law Firm (PMPED) — now Parker Law Group — to the stand as a witness. Seckinger is also married to Russell Laffitte’s brother-in-law.
Seckinger spoke about her role overseeing the finances at PMPED and how money, settlements, payouts, and expenses were typically handled at the firm.
Seckinger revealed that flags were first raised in 2019 following the boating accident in which Mallory Beach died and Paul Murdaugh was charged. She said the law firm became worried Alex Murdaugh would begin hiding money and settlement earnings to protect his family from a pending civil suit in the case.
Later, Seckinger noticed missing attorney’s fees from a case Alex Murdaugh worked on with long-time from and Bamberg County Attorney Chris Wilson to the tune of $729,000.
Seckinger says she confronted Murdaugh in his office on June 7th, 2021 — just hours before Margaret and Paul were murdered — about the money and asked for proof it was being held in trust by Wilson.
Minutes into the conversation, Seckinger says Murdaugh received a call telling him his dad, Randolph Murdaugh III, was returning home in hospice care, effectively ending the conversation.
Wednesday’s third witness called by the government was Jan Malinowski, who succeeded Russell Laffitte as the CEO of Palmetto State Bank. Malinowski’s testimony was paused at the end of the day just before 5:30 pm when Judge Richard Gergel decided to break court for the day. Malinowski’s testimony is set to resume Thursday morning.